What Are the Risks of Smoking

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[1]Before Dr. Luther L. Terry, then the Surgeon General of the United States, issued his office's first "Report on Smoking and Health" more than 30 years ago, thousands of articles had already been written on the effects of tobacco use on the human body.

[2] Tobacco companies had countered the reports--which purported to show links between smoking and cancer and other serious diseases--with denials and competing studies.

[3] So in 1964, Terry and his Advisory Coittee on Smoking and Health knew they were stepping into a major pit of controversy when they announced "cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action".

[4] It was America's first widely publicized acknowledgment that smoking cigarettes is a cause of serious diseases.

[5] But the issue wasn't settled in 1964, nor is it settled in 1997, despite literally thousands more studies--and litigation that has forced at least one tobacco company to admit what some activists say they knew all along: cigarette smoke is hazardous to your health.

[6] More than 30 years--and more than 20 Surgeon General reports--later, the issue appears headed for settlement in the courtroom rather than the laboratory.